OUR DUMB(ER) STATE 


;Two years ago we offered a simple hypothesis. Allow us to quote ourselves: "When something so idiotic as to be almost inconceivable happens, chances are it happened here."

;;

;Here, as in Florida. The Mecca of Morons. The Land of Losers. We had hoped that 2005's compendium of idiocy was an aberration, that maybe Florida would get with the program and stop being the nation's laughingstock. We were, of course, wrong.

;

;It seems that whenever Florida makes news, the news doesn't reflect well on us. That's a reality to which we'll all have to adjust.

;

;What follows is a taste of the brainlessness that the Sunshine State has spawned thus far in 2007. Once again, it's weighted toward Central Florida, because we live here. Once again, this is a sample. To list all of the stupid things that happened in Florida so far this year would require more pages than we have.

;

;LOVE STINKS

;

;An astronaut love triangle? With stalking? And diapers?

;

;By now you know the sordid tale. In February, NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested after allegedly pepper-spraying Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. That was fun. Then we learned the details.

;

;Shipman was dating a space shuttle pilot named Bill Oefelein, who had dated Nowak for two years but ended the relationship after he started dating Shipman. Nowak, a mother of three who had recently separated from her husband – not Oefelein, by the way – decided she needed to confront Shipman. So she got in her car and drove from Houston. According to police, she wore diapers so she wouldn't have to take pee breaks along the way. That's dedication.

;

;It's also not true, at least according to her lawyer. "The biggest lie in this preposterous tale that has been told is that my client drove from Houston, Texas to Orlando, Florida, nonstop, wearing a diaper," he told reporters June 29.

;

;True or not – and really, does it matter that much? – that little detail made Nowak the butt of late-night TV jokes and inspired a Law & Order episode. Her trial is scheduled for September, when once again Orlando will turn into a media circus, and residents will once again hang their heads in shame.

;;

;HEY LADY, YOU'RE FIRED

;

;On Feb. 21, Florida leapt into the national spotlight. This time the story was all about a sex change.

;

;For 14 years, Steve Stanton served as city manager of Largo. He got good reviews. The city commission fully supported him. He earned raises and accolades. Then the St. Petersburg Times reported that he was undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for gender reassignment surgery. Steve Stanton was about to become a woman.

;

;The small, conservative city of Largo was not impressed. The same city council that months earlier gave him a 9 percent raise voted 5-2 to fire him, for no other reason than that he wanted to be a she. As embarrassing as the blatant intolerance was, worse were the reasons Stanton's persecutors gave to mask it.

;

;"The issue is not the gender change," resident Bob Goss claimed. "It's the fact that he deceived people."

;

;It's unclear at what point Stanton would have needed to make the big announcement to satisfy Goss and his ilk. We're guessing never, based on the reactions of others in the fire-Stanton movement.

;

;"If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated," Pastor Ron Sanders announced, presumably after consulting the part of the Bible in which Jesus said that city managers undergoing gender reassignment surgery should be removed from their jobs.

;

;But don't feel too bad for Stanton. The city gave him a severance package on the way out that amounts to a full year's salary.

;;

;THE FAT MAN SINGS

;Poor Lou Pearlman. Each and every day his mug made national news – from the time he filed bankruptcy to when the feds picked him up in Indonesia – we were reminded how our city leaders fell hook, line and sinker for his ridiculous "plan" to revive Church Street Station, and even gave him big-bucks loans to do it.

;

;By 2006, Pearlman's alleged decade of dishonorable business practices was starting to catch up to him. First, an arbitrator ruled that Pearlman owed Washington Mutual $9.1 million. By December, an Indiana bank sued Pearlman's company for $20 million. The state's Office of Financial Regulation sued Trans Continental Airlines, accusing the company's Employee Investment Savings Account was an unregistered security. That was the tip of the iceberg.

;

;More lawsuits and investigations followed. Authorities seized Pearlman's jet, and Countrywide Home Loans foreclosed on two of his residential properties. Earlier this year, he filed for bankruptcy and skipped town. He didn't resurface until June.

;

;The same week bankruptcy officials were auctioning off anything and everything in his Church Street Station office, federal authorities nabbed Big Lou on fraud charges in Indonesia.

;

;His days atop the pop-music world are over. If federal prosecutors get their way, his days inside a penitentiary may be just beginning.

;

;SMOKE ON THE WATER

;;Here in our dumb state even our major lakes are catching on fire. Earlier this year, parts of the giant Lake Okeechobee were so parched from drought that they blazed up. True, there were other environmental factors at play, but also to blame were state policies that valued growth above all else and development-friendly elected officials who have consistently ignored warnings that the state is running out of water.

;;On June 15, National Public Radio's Morning Edition news program ran an interview with Cynthia Barnett, author of Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern United States, who noted how oblivious we can be.

;

;"Many homeowners associations in Florida not only require sod, but they have guys in golf carts driving around measuring the shade of green. And if you don't have the right shade, you get a nasty letter from the homeowners association and a fine."

;

;In other words, we not only don't value conservation, we encourage waste. There's a lesson here, but will we learn it? Not a chance. We're too dumb.

;;

;RICH GETS RICHER

;As if Lou Pearlman wasn't enough, Orlando is further cementing its reputation as an empty-headed metropolis via its relationship with billionaire fundie weirdo Rich DeVos, who for years has whined that his basketball team is losing money and needs your tax dollars to help them out.

;

;First our visionary city leaders barely blinked an eye when DeVos decided to rename its current facility the Amway Arena, despite the fact that Amway is a (legal) pyramid scheme that has been convicted of criminal fraud in Canada, among other foul deeds. Now our city leaders can't bust out the credit cards quickly enough to build DeVos a new arena with public dollars, all the while tying themselves in knots to convince residents the whole thing isn't an egregious example of corporate welfare. Fact: DeVos is worth $3.5 billion, or 10 times the city's annual budget. Fact: Having a new arena will greatly increase the Magic's worth, if and when he decides to sell the team. Fact: DeVos is only willing to chip in $50 million, or about 10 percent of the construction cost. (To make nice with wary county commissioners, he also agreed to build a couple of gymnasiums. That did the trick.) Tax dollars are funding the rest.

;

;They must think we're stupid. Maybe they're right.

;;

; THE SUPERHERO WILL SEE YOU NOW

;

;Only in Florida could a news story begin with this sentence: "The Brevard County doctor who was arrested for groping a woman while dressed as Captain America with a burrito in his pants will not go to jail."

;

;It's a real story, from WFTV Channel 9's website on July 10. In April, Dr. Raymond Adamcik was arrested during some sort of weird, costumed Melbourne pub crawl for medical professionals for allegedly groping two women, which was a strange enough story to warrant mention on the Smoking Gun website. Maybe it was the burrito.

;

;Anyway, after the police made all of the Captain Americas in the bar step outside so the woman could identify the groper, Adamcik was taken to the police station. He asked to use the rest room, and the cops found him trying to flush a stash of pot he had in his tights.

;

;According to the WFTV story, Adamcik will take part in a diversion program for first-time offenders, after which his record will be clean.

;;

;A SLAVE FOR LOVE

;

;Elsewhere in America, stories about prostitution rings are pretty mundane. Not so in Port Richey, Fla., where an alleged 34-year-old pimp had his alleged 19-year-old ho sign a 10-page, legalese-encrypted document called "Master Drew's Slavery Contract," which in graphic detail spells out the terms and conditions under which Alyssandra Cardillo, who is bipolar and schizophrenic, would spend the next five years servicing Andrew Michael Kobak, who is an asshole.

;

;Among the many salacious details in the contract, the slave agreed to "never close nor cross her legs in Master's presence, unless specific permission to do so is granted." She also couldn't wear undergarments without his permission, and he was allowed to brand, mark or tattoo her at his whim.

;

;Then there's the section titled "Orgasm Control": "Slave is to achieve orgasm ONLY by permission of owner." He, on the other hand, "may accept other slaves or lovers, but must consider slave's emotional response to such actions."

;

;How thoughtful. She was permitted four hours of sleep per night, and spent the other 20 hours fulfilling his desires and cleaning his house. If she got out of line, or if he felt like it, she was required to quietly bend over and receive a spanking. Other punishments were also elaborately detailed.

;

;"Above all," the contract instructs, "it is the duty of the servant to please."

;

;It wasn't the master-slave contract that got the cops involved. It was the (alleged) fact that over the first four days of the contract, eight men paid "Master Drew" $60 a pop for the pleasure of making sexy time with his slave, which is otherwise known as prostitution. Cops also found pot in the house, which surprisingly wasn't a trailer.

;

;Now for the Sunshine State twist: Our "victim" actually sought Kobak out (on the Internet, of course). She was looking to serve a man. He wanted a mistress. They met on a bondage and sadomasochism site. A Florida love story.

;;

;THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME

;;In a state as terminally lowbrow as ours, you'd assume that crack dealers aren't exactly well-read. Generally that's a safe bet. But there are exceptions. Take, for example, the dope peddlers who liked Richard Connell's 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game so much that they decided to act it out.

;;In June, a 38-year-old man told Pasco County deputies that while at a gas station he was approached by four men, two of whom had previously sold him crack cocaine, according to the St. Petersburg Times website. They forced him into a car, drove him to the edge of a wooded area and let him out.

;

;"You better run, we're going to get you," one of the assailants said. Damned if they didn't mean it. The men were carrying bows and arrows, and as soon as our victim got out of the car, they started shooting at him. The victim ran, and told police that for the next day and night, the men chased him through the woods. The following afternoon, our victim says he found his way out of the woods and flagged down a passer-by who drove him to safety.

;;

;BURN THIS BOOK

;;Speaking of literature, some of us Floridians don't like books very much, especially when they tell us things we disagree with. Example: the Miami-Dade County School District, which is trying to ban a children's book called Vamos a Cuba from its libraries because it doesn't portray Fidel Castro as a Caribbean Genghis Khan to kids who probably can't read it anyway, since they go to Florida public schools.

;

;Miami, you see, is home to lots of Cuban-Americans who really don't like Castro that much. And, according to the June 5 Associated Press story about the book, it doesn't delve much into the loss of civil liberties and the regime's reputation for oppression.

;

;Then again, it is a children's book. A federal judge ruled that the board's 2006 vote to remove all 49 copies of the book from its libraries was political and declared that schoolchildren should have access to all kinds of information and points of view.

;

;But this is Florida. The board appealed.

;;

;'ROID RAGE RIGHT HERE

;

;When you heard about the pro wrestler who went nuts and killed his wife and son and finally himself in Atlanta in late June, didn't you just know the story would find its way here?

;

;Chris Benoit, the late wrestler, bought some of his possibly rage-inducing steroids right here in our fair city. According to authorities, the Orlando-based Signature Compounding Pharmacy, the very same company at the center of an ongoing steroids investigation, sent Benoit packages they believe contained anabolic steroids. And once again, Orlando made national news.

;;

;VOTE FOR ROMNEY, BURN IN HELL

;

;That our dumb state is stacked to the rafters with wack-job fundies isn't news. Neither is the notion that their inscrutable forays into the political spectrum usually produce comic results that, though amusing, only reinforce the idea that we aren't the most enlightened of human beings.

;

;Example: Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based Live Prayer TV program, who on May 11 told the (supposed) 2.4 million people on his e-mail list, "If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!"

;

;In addition to blasting Romney and his entire (Mormon) religion as an evil scam whose followers will burn in hell, Keller also castigated fellow Bible-thumper Pat Robertson for the sin of letting Romney speak at his college.

;

;"[T]hey are no more Christian than a Muslim is!" Keller declared. "There is no excuse, no justification for supporting and voting for a man who will be used by Satan to lead the souls of millions into the eternal flames of hell!"

;

;This prompted the Americans United for Separation of Church and State to ask the IRS to consider revoking Keller's tax-exempt status, because by saying Mitt Romney is a tool of the devil, he was illegally engaging in politics. Keller responded: "SATAN MUST BE VERY UPSET!"

;

;It's worth noting that before his life in God's service, Keller was a businessman. But then he got busted for insider trading and did just over two years in the federal clink.

;;

;CAST OUT THE DEMONS

;On July 13, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Edgewater city councilwoman Debra Rogers' daughter accused her and her husband Daniel of battery. Ho hum, right? No, because this is Florida, so of course there were extra-stupid details just waiting to come out. For instance, this alleged battery occurred during an exorcism.

;

;According to this and subsequent stories, the 18-year-old alleged victim, Danielle, told police that her parents had physically restrained her while pouring olive oil on her body in an effort to force "the demons out of her." (And you just thought it was good on pasta.) During the ordeal, her bra and shirt were partially torn.

;

;Her sin? She said a bad word to her twin sister. And her father allegedly threatened to shoot one of her friends.

;

;The parents told the cops a different version of events. They said that after an argument, the family gathered in the kitchen to rub a little olive oil on Danielle's forehead – totally normal – but that she "went crazy and began flailing about."

;

;Must have been the demons.

;

;And then, just in case he hadn't sufficiently embarrassed every Edgewater resident who'd ever voted for his wife, Daniel accused the cops of wanting to have sex with his daughter, and Debra Rogers called the police department's victims advocate the "devil's advocate" because she put too many ideas in Danielle's head about her "rights."

;;

;FEED THE HOMELESS, GO TO JAIL

;

;Here in the land of idiots, we do try to help those less fortunate. Of course, by "help" we mean "push to the outskirts where rich white folks don't have to see them." Our fearless Orlando leaders took a brave stand to this effect last year and passed a law forbidding charity groups from feeding the homeless in public parks.

;

;The charity groups sued, saying the law is unconstitutional. And for a while, it seemed the city was content not to enforce the law until the federal courts sorted it out. Someone even told that to the Orlando Sentinel. But the city had a change of heart.

;

;On April 4, it dispatched a bunch of cops to Lake Eola Park, where Orlando Food Not Bombs and a few other groups had the temerity to give vegetarian food to poor people. The cops closely surveilled the situation, counting each and every homeless person who received a hot batch of veggie stew. When they counted to 26 – in a state this stupid, that's a feat unto itself – they pounced. See, city law only lets you feed 25 people at a time, and one OFNB kid, Eric Montanez, had just broken that law.

;

;The cops were going to issue him a notice to appear in court, but they said Montanez got all feisty, so they had to take him downtown. Then the cops collected the stew as evidence.

;;

;POINT YOUR FINGER, GO TO JAIL

;

;In Orlando, feeding the hungry can land you behind bars. Over in Bradenton, it takes an even smaller offense: Pointing your finger (not the finger you're thinking of) at the wrong person.

;

;The whole mess started with a dispute over duckshit. According to a May 1 television news story, Ray Miller is a cranky old man who ;doesn't like ducks because they crap all over the parking garage in the condo complex in which he lives.

;

;"Our parking garage is littered with their feces," he told WWSB-TV. "It's like little bombs through there."

;

;Then, one day, he saw a woman feeding the ducks and got pissed off. He asked the woman to stop. She refused. "I'm a police officer; I can do what I want," he says she told him.

;

;She wasn't lying. Miller and Manatee County sheriff's deputy Kym Bennett argued for a while, then Miller and his wife called the Bradenton Police Department to ask for an opinion. A short while later, the cops showed up, and they didn't care a whit about the damn ducks.

;

;Bennett told her fellow cops that Miller had been aggressive and that he pointed his finger at her. That's an arrestable offense in Dullsville. The cops hauled Miller away.

;

;Miller's lawyer, Mark Lipinski, offered the rest of us this stern warning: "[The] next time you want to shake your finger at somebody, you better think twice."

;

;Because this is our dumb state.

; jbillman@orlandoweekly.com

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2017 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation